52 Ancestors: Working in the Mines

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza


Thomas P. Noble, son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble c. 1931

Thomas P. Noble, son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble c. 1931

My maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Noble, was a native of Liverpool, England. I recently mentioned Thomas in my post 52 Ancestors: Back to School, since he held the positions of school director in Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. The week I am writing about his occupation as a coal miner. While he is not the only one of my ancestors who were coal miners or laborers in the mines, he is the ancestor for whom I, at least, have some information on his mining experiences.

He was born in Liverpool, Lancashire County, England on 26 November 1851, a son of Edward and Mary (Devine) Noble, natives of Ireland. As a young boy, he labored in the mines of England. Thomas and his family are enumerated in the 1861 UK census residing in the Pottery Yard in Newbottle, County Durham, England. He is 10 years old and his occupation is listed as coal miner. He shared some memories of these experiences to his friends and neighbors in America.

According to his obituary, he told of how even women and girls worked in the underground pits in England, how donkeys were used instead of mules, how much men often pulled or pushed mine cars instead of the donkeys and how some of the mines extended underneath the sea. It was so hot “inside,” he said that workmen at times had to shed some of their clothing. He further related how a kind of circular stairway was used to get in and out of the mines.

At the age of eleven and arriving in this country around 1862, Thomas and his family immediately settled in Locust Gap, located in Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Northumberland County and nearby counties was known as the Coal Region, which is home to the largest known deposits of anthracite (hard) coal found in the Americas.

Thomas married Margaret McGinn on 19 October 1876, and began raising their family of eleven children, of whom nine lived. The family moved to the city of Mount Carmel, remaining there only a few years before returning to the township by taking up residence in Connorsville. Thomas’ residence in Connorsville covered a period of approximately thirty-two years.

For most of his time in America, he worked at the Locust Gap Colliery, also located in Mount Carmel Township. He was considered an expert in his occupation. Thomas finally retired as a miner, after having spent 58 years working underground, including his boyhood days in England. He died on 24 March 1934 at the age of 81.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Work.

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2 Responses to 52 Ancestors: Working in the Mines

  1. Teresa says:

    Wow – that must have been a hard life! Very inspiring…

    • Thank you. I am sure it was. Most of my male relatives worked in the mines in Northumberland County and most did enjoy as long a life as Thomas due to occupational illness (Black Lung, etc.)

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